Two big plays in a two-minute span made a huge difference in a showdown between two of the teams tied at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference standings.
The Skyhawks (3-0, 2-2 OVC) used that dramatic shift in momentum to stun the Colonels (3-3, 1-1) Saturday on Homecoming at Roy Kidd Stadium.
"You go from a game where its back-and-forth but you've got a little bit of a lead, to having to play catch up," EKU coach Mark Elder said. "It happened like that. They gained 14 points on two plays."
EKU had a 21-17 lead - and the ball after forcing a turnover - mid-way through the third quarter. UT-Martin used a big punt return to set up one touchdown, then added a defensive TD.
The Skyhawks never gave up the lead again, pulling away for a 38-28 win.
The Colonels threw for a season-high 313 yards, but were simply not effective running the ball.
"You are not going to win too many games when on back-to-back series in the second half you just give them a touchdown," Elder said. "That's essentially what happened."
The shift in momentum was sudden.
And the Colonels were never really ever to recover.
Terry Williams gave the Skyhawks a first-and-goal after he returned a punt 71 yards. Two plays later, quarterback John Bachus scored on a 5-yard run that put the Skyhawks back in front, 24-21.
On the next drive, the Colonels moved into UTM territory when Parker McKinney hit Keyion Dixon on a 22-yard pass.
McKinney was pressured on the next play. He fell to the ground and the ball came loose. T.J. Jefferson recovered the fumble and went 44 yards for a touchdown.
"My instinct was to catch myself and I tried to do that with the ball, which I should not have done," McKinney said. "I should have had better ball security. That was a huge turning point in the game. I should have kept two hands on the ball and taken the sack. That one is on me."
The ball was reviewed, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
"I assume they got it right. I don't know," Elder said. "I thought when you touch the ground the football, you were down. Maybe it's a new rule."
McKinney scored on a 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that got the Colonels back within three points (31-28).
The Skyhawks answered with a 54-yard TD run by Peyton Logan less than three minutes later.
EKU's last possession ended with an interception.
"They eliminated our run game," Elder said. "We answered by throwing the ball fairly well. Not well enough to win the game. We took what they were giving us."
The Colonels came into the game with the top rushing attack in the OVC, averaging 243 yards a game. They had only 96 yards on the ground against UTM on 40 carries - just 2.4 yards an attempt.
Senior Daryl McCleskey came into the game as the OVC's top rusher, averaging 113 yards a game. He had 60 yards on 17 carries and also had three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Colonels took the lead quickly, behind the passing attack.
McKinney hit Jaelin Carter on a 27-yard TD pass just 1:08 into the game.
"We came out and started fast," McKinney said.
The Skyhawks scored 17-straight points after that opening drive.
Lamarcus Young scored on a 41-yard run, Ryan Courtwright hit a 22-yard field goal and Jaimiee Bowe found the end zone from nine yards out.
UTM had a chance to extend that lead just before the half.
The Colonels came up short on a third down deep in their own territory. After the play, UTM's Cam Ordway was assessed a personal foul. That kept the drive alive and McKinney connected with McCleskey on a 4-yard TD catch with 17 seconds left that cut the Skyhawk lead to 17-14 at halftime.
"They had a dumb penalty that kept us going," Elder said. "We got fortunate."
That momentum carried over and the Colonels took the lead when they scored on their first possession of the second half. Alonzo Booth capped a 10-play, 85-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.
Four plays later, Daulson Fitzpatrick came up with an interception that gave EKU the ball near mid-field.
"I saw run, so I went to the gap," Fitzpatrick said. "Then, I realized it was a pass, so I dropped back. I just followed the receiver to the ball."
The Colonels couldn't take advantage of the turnover, though.
EKU has lost three of its past four Homecoming games, including two-straight.
The teams finished with almost the same amount of total yardage (EKU - 409, UTM - 401) and the Colonels had more first downs (22 to 19). EKU was also 7-of-18 on third down and ran 90 offense plays.
McKinney was 19-of-40 for 313 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a fumble. Bachus was 15-of-21 for 167 yards and one interception.
Dixon led the Colonels with 97 yards on five catches.
EKU has a week off before hitting the road for two-straight weeks - Murray State and Eastern Illinois.